Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The network layer addresses messages and translates logical addresses and names into physical addresses. It also determines the route from the source to the destination computer and manages traffic problems, such as switching, routing, and controlling the congestion of data packets.
The network layer provides the functional and procedural means of transferring variable length data sequences from a source to a destination via one or more networks while maintaining the quality of service requested by the Transport layer. The Network layer performs network routing, flow control, segmentation/desegmentation, and error control functions.
The network layer deals with transmitting information all the way from its source to its destination - and transmitting things from anywhere you like, to anywhere you like. If you can't contact a place at the network layer, then you can't contact that place at all. However, it does it in a very basic way, without error detection or flow control, or anything else. Here are some things that the network layer needs to address:
- Is the network connection-oriented or connectionless? For example, snail mail is connectionless, because you can send a letter to someone without them doing anything and they will receive the letter. On the other hand, the telephone system is connection-oriented, because the other party has to pick up the phone before you can talk to them.
- What are the Global Addresses? Everybody in the network needs to have a unique address which determines who they are. This address will normally be hierarchical, so you can be "Fred Murphy" to Dubliners, or "Fred Murphy, Dublin" to people in Ireland, or "Fred Murphy, Dublin, Ireland" to people anywhere in the world. On the internet, these addresses are known as IP Numbers.
- How do you forward a message? This is of particular interest to mobile applications, where a user may rapidly move from place to place, and it must be arranged that his messages follow him. Version 4 of the Internet Protocol (IPv4) doesn't really allow for this, though it has been hacked somewhat since its inception. Fortunately, the forthcoming IPv6 has a much better designed solution, which should make these kinds of applications much smoother.
In the traditional postage system (commonly referred to as snail mail) this role is provided by the postman (to some extent).
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